Thursday, November 01, 2012


For many years I have comfortably occupied the position of teacher.  I am a teacher as a mom; I was a teacher at NOEES for 5 years; I have taught many workshops at the Inner World School and I have settled into being a dance teacher. 

It has been awhile since I have experienced the genuine vulnerability of learning from someone else.  Sure I have learned lots through reading and discussion and its one thing to learn a new knit stitch its another to put yourself in a completely foreign environment.

At the IPE, I watched the stock dog trials as I like to do, having a love of Border Collies since my childhood dog, Buck.  Afterward, I went to talk to the handlers as the audience was invited to do and met Lee Lumb.  Lee trains and competes with stock dogs and she teaches people how to work stock with their dogs.  Through a series of e-mails I came to be on her farm with Hugo and Jasmine a few weeks ago.  It was determined that Jasmine was the one worth working with so almost every week since then as found her and I on our way to Lavington. 

My initial understanding was that stock dog training was kind of like obedience training just more complicated.  She would learn some complicated set of instructions and I would learn how to administer them....  Wow, was I wrong.  Basically, Jasmine through the innate senses of her breed already knows exactly what to do.  Its me that has to do all the learning - learning how she responds to the pressure of my body.  Learning how this pressure makes her do different things.  In the 3 lessons we've had, I've learned how to get Jasmine to go out and around the sheep and change directions.  When Lee goes in there, she can get Jasmine to do a whole lot more.

That feeling, the first time I tried to do it and failed spectacularly, was a very vulnerable experience.  Lee is very matter-of-fact and she has a good sense of humour but to realize just how completely clueless I was was something.  It was something compared to how badly I wanted to learn it.  I was reminded just how vulnerable you feel when you are learning something completely new.  And how as an adult, it has been a long time since I was really in that position.  I really, really want to learn this skill.  The idea of having a dog to help me move my sheep appeals to me, especially as my children wander off into the world and my helpers dwindle.  It reminded me of the courage and determination that it takes to learn in a situation like that.  It renews my respect for my students and reminds me of the great trust I hold.

And really, its a very refreshing thing to do.  When was the last time you put yourself in that position?

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